Log in

Haddayr Copley-Woods [userpic]

Howard Don Small

July 13th, 2007 (04:19 pm)

current mood: sad
current song: Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing

An old friend of mine died this morning.

He was the director of the St. Mark's choir most of the time I was there. I loved him. I still do.

He was well over six feet tall and must have weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. He wore thick, unfashionable glasses and the most beautiful smile you have ever seen. When I auditioned, he acted delighted that I had joined them: an awkward, atheist soprano with a rough voice and vague idea of the tune who couldn't sight read and who didn't even know how to put on a choir robe.

He made everyone feel that way: instantly part of his choral family. He was so, so kind. He just radiated gentle, intelligent kindness. Always.

And he was brilliant: graduated from Eastman and with a glorious sense of music and style. He was an incredible organist; listening to him was like riding a thunderstorm. He preferred the same simple American hymns I do, and he was a composer as well: publishing several of his arrangements and his original pieces.

I loved singing for him. He stood in front of us every Sunday with his face lit up with joy to hear us; he was a subtle conductor, but often in his own way: head tilted, body swaying, would dance in our sound.

To be part of his instrument was glorious.

He wrote an arrangement to "Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing" which always brought me to tears. I especially loved the line: "Oh, to grace, how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be" because I feel so grateful to grace, and yes, to Jesus, for letting me into His church where I never really belonged and for letting me sing the most glorious music ever written. Perhaps it seems odd to be grateful to Jesus for lending me His music instead of dying for our sins like everyone else does, but there you have it: I am a great debtor to grace. And glad to be.

He always looked right at me when we sang that line, because he knew I understood what it meant.

He called me one of his "favorite sopranos." He hugged us all in his funny, formal way with his heart just right there on his face for all to see whenever we saw him. Seeing him made my heart glad, every time I saw him. Losing him is sadder than I can say.

Although I'm not an atheist anymore, I'm not so sure about heaven and following rules to get there. I do know this: wherever Don is, I hope choirs of heavenly angels are singing. Flaming tongues and all.


Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: July 13th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)

I'm so sorry, Haddayr.

Posted by: Greg van Eekhout (gregvaneekhout)
Posted at: July 13th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)

I'm so sorry, Haddayr.

Posted by: mia_mcdavid (mia_mcdavid)
Posted at: July 13th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)

Oh, I am so very sorry.

I am sure his love and talent now inform the Heavenly choir, but that is no consolation to those who will miss him in this world.


Posted by: Marguerite Croft (albionidaho)
Posted at: July 13th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)

Oh, I am so, so sorry. He sounds like such a remarkable, loving man, and if anyone is going to make it to a place of joy and happiness it sounds like it will be him.

Take care.

Posted by: Hannah (buymeaclue)
Posted at: July 13th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC)

There's this message board I read that has a bunch of smiley faces, and one of them is a sort of smile-through-tears face, all blue and teary, but nodding, with a big grin.

I feel something like that would be appropriate here.

Posted by: Persephone's Garden (sal_e_peters)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)

This seems to be such a rough time for you right now.

I'm sorry for the loss of this lovely friend. Thank you for sharing the beauty of the that friendship.

Posted by: KATER (aeroplanic)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)

How terribly sad.

He sounds like a terrific person.

Posted by: R. Francis Smith (rfrancis)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 06:16 am (UTC)

I'm sorry. This is the only thing I could think to offer you, humble as it is.


Posted by: stoner_witch (stoner_witch)
Posted at: July 14th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC)

so sorry...

Your life is better for having known him.

xo - s_W

Posted by: Aliette de Bodard (aliettedb)
Posted at: July 15th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC)
rescue rangers

My condolences.

Posted by: hal_g (hal_g)
Posted at: July 15th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
Don's passing

Dear Haddayr,
I too am sad at Don's passing. The news hit me like a jolt of electricity. I'm so grateful for the time we did have together. I wrote a tribute to him on my blog as well:
Take good care, Hal

Posted by: MG Ellington (xjenavivex)
Posted at: July 16th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)

I have read your more recent post. I am just catching up to this one. I am deeply sorry for your loss, but glad for your friendship.

Posted by: karen meisner (_stranger_here)
Posted at: July 16th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)

Thanks for this glimpse of your heart, Haddayr. It makes me love you yet more. I'm sorry for your loss.

Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: July 16th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)

Why won't you move to Minneapolis, again?

14 Read Comments